In his book The Culture Code (2006), Clotaire Rapaille describes Cultural code is the unconscious meaning we apply to any given thing via the culture in which we are raised. The culture code “defines a set of images that are associated with a particular set of stereotypes in our minds,” as summarized by Wikipedia. The code is unconscious, hidden even from our own understanding, but manifests itself in our actions.

The combination of the experience and its accompanying emotion creates something known as an imprint, a term first applied by Nobel Prize-winning biologist Konrad Lorenz. The stronger the emotion, the more clearly an experience is learned. Each imprint helps make us more of who we are; we are defined by the combination of imprints that have affected us.

A hotel brand is related to these concepts, as the brand is related to the fundamental relation between a guest and a host – which goes back to the basic definitions of hospitality.

Susan Fournier (Journal of Consumer Research, 2014) introduces an interesting concept of the relation between the consumer and the brand in the article “Consumers and their brands: developing relationship theory in consumer research”. From her conceptual work, we can extrapolate to the hospitality relation between the guest and the host.

Fournier’s analysis suggests an alternative to the construct of brand loyalty in the notion of brand relationship quality. Brand relationship quality is similar in spirit to brand loyalty: both constructs attempt to capture the strength of the connection formed between the consumer and the brand toward a prediction of relationship stability over time. With the development of new technologies, especially social networks, this relationship became much more complex and highly time-sensitive: everything happens at the same time, in the same virtual space, and with a huge potential to spread.

By sharing opinions online and in real time, people are also sharing emotions, based on their own imprints and values, as manifested through their own culture code. Brands create avatars on the Internet, and the avatar creates new relations in the marketspace. A platform such as TripAdvisor “distributes” emotions on the web which then underpin decisions and choices made by others. Nobody asks if this is rational or emotional, but it is no longer possible to neglect the perception created of a brand in the marketspace. The paradox is that if a hotel chain becomes a specialist in branding and technology, it will in fact interact less with the customer – but it will generate positive feedback from its “avatars”, receiving excellent reports based on customers’ perception.

About the Author

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Ray F. Iunius Director Business Development at Lausanne Hospitality Consulting SA

Prof. Dr Ray F. Iunius is the author of various academic and professional articles published by journals in the management of services, technology, and innovation. He is also the author of a number of books such as « Industrie de l’accueil », « Hôtellerie de Luxe », « La gestion des spas », “Un Hôtel, un modèle ?” in de Boeck editions and co-author of the “Lausanne Report on the future of Hospitality Industry.” He is the founder of the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne Institute of Technology and Entrepreneurship (EHLITE), the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (INTEHL), the Students Business Projects (SBP), the EHLITE magazine, and the Chair of Innovation Paul Dubrule. Ray earns a BSc, MS and PhD in Technical Sciences from the University of Transylvania Brasov and an MBA and PhD from the Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC) of the Lausanne University. He is currently Director of Business Development at Lausanne Hospitality Consulting, an Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne and Swiss Hotel Association company.